OKLAHOMA CITY, Oklahoma - Agence France-Presse
For LeBron James to finally claim his long-sought NBA Finals title, he and the Miami Heat will have to shut down NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Two star-studded teams begin the best-of-seven championship series at Oklahoma City tonight, ending a campaign shortened by a financial dispute between players and team owners that delayed the season’s start to Dec. 25.
James, this season’s NBA Most Valuable Player, bid a bitter farewell to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2010 for Miami to join fellow superstars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh and spoke of not only winning an NBA crown but taking multiple titles.
The Heat lost to Dallas in last year’s NBA Finals but James has worked to reach the NBA Finals for the third time in his career in his ninth NBA season, having also lost with Cleveland to San Antonio in 2007.
James averaged 27.6 points, 7.2 rebounds and 6.9 assists to spark Miami and has produced 30.8 points and 9.8 rebounds a game in the playoffs, but the goal remains another four victories away from the superstar playmaker.
“We look forward to the next challenge,” James said. “Still one more step.” The Heat and Thunder split two regular-season meetings, each club winning at home. Oklahoma City went 47-19, one game better than Miami, to claim a home-field edge for the final showdown.